The first half of the GAA season has concluded and Waterford have secured the first national trophy on offer for 2015.
They won the league from Division 1B and played an excellent brand of hurling. Pundit Arena GAA decided to kick-off another debate by putting an All-Star selection together, based solely on the 2015 league.
The XV is dominated by Waterford, and correctly so. They won the league without competing in the top division and put in some excellent collective and individual displays. Yet again, we expect this selection to be criticised and debated, so get ready to have you’re say.
Here is the Pundit Arena XV.
1. Stephen O’Keefe (Waterford)
The Waterford stopper is finally beginning to get some recognition for his performances. Waterford’s success saw them gain a lot of publicity through the first part of the season. O’Keefe, who was shambolically omitted from the All-Star nominations last year, showed how good a goalkeeper he is to the whole country with a string of great saves and all round performances.
Here is his outstanding save from Seamus Harnedy in the league final;
2. Shane Fives (Waterford)
The Waterford full-back line may receive an awful lot of protection from surplus bodies flooding back into their defence but Fives was a player who did very well at corner-back and looks to be improving with every game. He has been on the scene for a good few years now and finally seems to be nailing down a position. He had a very good league campaign.
3. Peter Kelly (Dublin)
The lack of standout full-backs in Ireland continued in this year’s league where a lot of counties struggled to find a player who could play consistently well in the number three shirt. In the end Dublin’s Peter Kelly gets the nod. He began the year at centre-back and was excellent, but out of necessity he moved back to full-back to shore things up and did a good job.
4. Stephen McDonnell (Cork)
Cork’s defence may not be their strongest point but the best defender they have is the Glen man, who had a very respectable league campaign despite missing a few games through injury and work commitments. He was by far Cork’s best defender against Dublin and held his own in the league final with Waterford. He is one of Ireland’s most improved hurlers in the last few years.
5. Austin Gleeson (Waterford)
Gleeson is the best young hurler in Ireland at the moment and is getting better and better with every game he plays. He debuted in the forward line last season but now has reverted back to the half-back line, where he has excelled. He has contributed scores from play as a defender and has been a major reason for the Déise’s success so far in 2015.
Watch the video below to see Gleeson’s incredible solo point in the league final.
6. Padraic Maher (Tipperary)
The Tipperary man has finally got back to his consistent best and is currently the leading half-back in the country. Having struggled at full-back and been part of a Tipp side that was going down a potential landslide; he and Tipp have turned things around and Maher is now playing to his best in the heart of the Premier defence. Both look well-placed for the championship.
7. Conal Keaney (Dublin)
Keaney finishes off the half-back line, and like the others, he was repositioned and found a very high level of performance in the number seven position for the Dubs.
Liam Rushe moved back up front and Keaney moved back closer to goal as the new regime, under Ger Cunningham, got off to a relatively positive start. Keaney hurled a world of ball at half-back and provided a great attacking platform.
8. Jamie Barron (Waterford)
Barron was definitely the most underrated member of the Déise revival. He was outstanding around the middle of the park and brought great energy all over the field. Barron provided his team with massive work rate and intensity, the main characteristics that this new Waterford side is built around.
He was a key link between defence and attack and put himself into key positions to deliver scores or quality ball to his forwards.
9. Kevin Moran (Waterford)
Waterford are a very young side at the moment and one of the key things they needed was their older and more experienced players to provide leadership and guidance to these youngsters.
Kevin Moran delivered this in spades. He was outstanding in the league and got back to the level that saw him win an All-Star in 2012. He showed up everywhere on the field and was integral to the side.
Here is the video of Moran lifting the National Hurling League trophy.
10. Michael Walsh (Waterford)
‘Brick’ was another vital piece of the Déise jigsaw as he, like Kevin Moran, provided the experience and leadership that helped to bring the whole side together.
He wore number fourteen but played a withdrawn role around midfield and the half-forward line and had a major influence on Waterford’s results. He showed the ability to win the vital balls and offload them to players in better positions.
11. Tony Kelly (Clare)
The 2013 Hurler of the Year was back to his best in this year’s league despite missing some of the opening games due to injury and playing in the Fitzgibbon Cup with UL.
While Clare ended up being relegated, Kelly gave an exhibition in their relegation play-off defeat to Kilkenny and had two very good displays against Dublin and Kilkenny in the regular rounds of the league.
If he had been fit and available for the whole campaign, Clare may have done better.
12. Pauric Mahony (Waterford)
Mahony finished as the joint-highest scorer in the league and was another important player for Waterford. A lot of his scores may come from frees but they must be scored and providing 1-90 over the course of a league has a massive value.
But he provides a lot more, he is the focal point of the Waterford attack and links play very well. He is another underrated player on the national stage.
The video below shows Mahony scoring the winning point in the semi-final against Tipperary with a trademark free.
13. Patrick Horgan (Cork)
Horgan was the other man who finished as the joint-top scorer and while there were a couple of indifferent performances, overall he had a very good league campaign and showed that he can be Cork’s main forward.
His free taking is still top class and he scored a lot from play against the likes of Tipperary and Clare. His 0-17 haul against Dublin was also impressive.
This writer still thinks he can offer a lot more but his league campaign was very good. Despite this, he has the potential to be even better.
14. Mark Schutte (Dublin)
Schutte earns his place in the side with a number of impressive performances through the course of the league campaign.
His two best displays came in the quarter-final and semi-final against Limerick and Cork where he caused a lot of trouble and put plenty of scores on the board. His big presence makes him a handful and he also showed good composure in front of goal.
Below is one of Schutte’s many scores from play over the course of the league campaign.
15. Richie Hogan (Kilkenny)
The current Hurler of the Year was part of a struggling Kilkenny side who were deprived a significant number of their main players through injury and club commitments.
Hogan was still available for most of the league and continued to show his class. He gave a number of excellent displays and single handily carried the Cats for most of the league, spending most of his time in the forward line.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.